Volvo Buying Itself Out of Chinese Joint Venture

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Volvo Cars is plotting to buy out parent company Zhejiang Geely Holding and free itself of its Chinese joint venture. The Swedish (currently Swedish-Chinese) manufacturer has been hinting at the prospect of going public with an IPO, which most analysts believe would be bolstered by creating some distance from Geely.

While the Chinese Communist Party has ended mandates requiring electric vehicle firms from entering into joint ventures with established domestic businesses, the rule still exists for traditional automakers. However, the general assumption is that most will attempt to regain full ownership of their Chinese assets when the law is lifted next year. But critics are cautioning that the nation is under no obligation to maintain any commitment to foreign entities once they’ve split with their local partners.

Based upon international concerns of intellectual property theft, your author would even argue that China already has what it needs from these businesses. Why not allow them to buy themselves out of relationships and assume total financial responsibility for its facilities when the government can place whatever restrictions it wants moving forward? Perhaps I’m being too pessimistic. But China has a tendency to unapologetically do what’s best for itself and already benefited from the technological sharing required via JVs.

Then again, Volvo has said it receives a high degree of autonomy from Geely. But it also seems content with not getting any cozier and dodged a potential merger that was floated by its Chinese parent company in 2020.

While the details of the current deal have not been shared by either company. Reuters reported that Volvo would be assuming total control of factories in its manufacturing plants in Chengdu and Daqing, as well as its R&D center in Shanghai. It also speculated as to why Geely might not be terribly clingy when Volvo’s sales are dwarfed by the Germans.

From Reuters:

Volvo Cars sold over 166,000 vehicles in China last year, and its dealers are offering heavy discounts to compete with other premium brands like BMW and Audi.

The Gothenburg-based company was bought by Geely from Ford in the aftermath of the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, and has since shared ownership of its Chinese plants with its parent.

Volvo Cars said the transactions, which are subject to regulatory approval, would be carried out in two steps, starting in 2022 and seen formally completed in 2023.

“These two transactions will create a clearer ownership structure within both Volvo Cars and Geely Holding,” Geely’s CEO Daniel Li said in a statement, which did not refer to the possible IPO.

Volvo Cars has referenced the IPO on numerous occasions, however, with CEO Håkan Samuelsson previously indicating it could be underway before 2022. On Wednesday, he said his company would become the first foreign automaker to obtain full control over its Chinese operations. Geely leadership has also hinted at this, Li suggesting in June that Volvo would move quickly if placed on any stock exchange. Regardless, the two companies will still share platforms and components for the foreseeable future.

[Image: Volvo]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Ol Shel Ol Shel on Jul 22, 2021

    Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2019

  • Pig_Iron Pig_Iron on Jul 22, 2021

    Prepare for Communist chicanery. :-/

  • Ronin Let's see the actuals first, then we can decide using science.What has been the effect of auto pollution levels since the 70s when pollution control devices were first introduced? Since the 80s when they were increased?How much has auto pollution specifically been reduced since the introduction of hybrid vehicles? Of e-vehicles?We should well be able to measure the benefits by now, by category of engine. We shouldn't have to continue to just guess the benefits. And if we can't specifically and in detail measure the benefits by now, it should make a rational person wonder if there really are any real world benefits.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Simply put, I like it.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Ah GM, never stop being you. GM is working hard to make FIAT look good.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Top Gear of the 2000's was a fresh concept and very well done. Sadly to say there isn't a TV show concept that doesn't eventually exhaust fresh ideas and, as a result, begins to rehash and wear out once were fresh ideas. The show eventually becomes a pale imitation of itself, then begins to embarrass itself, it will get to a point where it jumps the shark. Top Gear began to get stale, the Clarkson, Hammond and May left and the formula failed - surprise! the presenters were part of the magic. Fast forward many years and Grand Tower is trying hard to be Top Gear but it's all very obviously scripted (it always was by felt spontaneous in its original form), Clarkson, Hammond and May are much older, tired and have become caricatures of themselves. Guys, just stop. You should have stopped 10 years ago. Now you're just screwing with your reputations and legacies.
  • FreedMike Kudos to Toyota for making a legitimately slick looking piece (particularly in metallic cherry red). But PHEVs seem like a very narrow niche to me. Yes, the concept is cool - if you play your cards right you never have to fill up with gas, and the gas engine means you don't have to worry about charging facilities - but the operative words are "if you play your cards right." And PHEVs have all the drawbacks of EVs - spotty charging availability, decreased range in cold conditions, and higher price. Personally, I'd opt for a non plug-in Prius and use the plug-in money to upgrade the trim level. It's slower, but even the base Prius performs roughly on par with a Corolla or Civic, so it's not a dog anymore. But who buys a Prius to go fast in the first place? If I wanted to "go gas free," I'd just buy a BEV. YMMV, of course.
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